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The farour shown by the public to the American First Class-Book has encouraged me to proceed to the execution of a purpose, that I formed while preparing that book for the press—the compilation of a Reader, for the Common Schools of the United States, which should be,-ivhat no school. book compiled in Great Britain is,-in some degree at least, American.
It cannot, indeed, be urged as an objection to a British school-book, that it is not adapted to American schools; that it consists exclusively of the productions of British authors; that it abounds in delineations of British manners,—in descriptions of British scenery,-in eulogies of British heroes and statesmen,-in selections from British history, -and in pieces, of which it is the direct aim to impress the mind of the reader with a deep sense of the excellence of British institutions, and of the power and glory of the British empire. A book of this character is moving in its proper sphere, and accomplishing the purpose of its author, when it is passing from hand to hand, among the children of Great Britain, introducing them to an acquaintance with their native land, and with those who have adorned it by their genius or their virtues, and thus exciting within them a love of their country, and a resolution to become its ornaments in their turn. That effect produced by the book, its author has gained his object, and has established his character, and secured his reward, as a benefactor of his country in one of its most valuable interests: and it derogates nothing from his merit or fame, to say that his book is not well adapted to those for whose use he did not intend it; for this is but saying that he has not done what he has not atteinpted to do. It is no disparagement to English laws, to say that they will not do for us. They were not made for us. Nor is it a disparagement to English school-books, to say that they are not adapted to American schools. There is not one, among them all, that was designed for American schools. To the compiler of an American School-Reader, it would, no doubt, be flattering, to know that his book had found such 'favour in Eng. land, as to be introduced extensively into common schools there. But, though this might be a little flattering to him, it would, probably, seem to him not a little strange, that they had not books of their own in England, better fitted to the schools, under a monarchical form of government, than the compilation of a republican foreigner, which was never intended for them. And would it be to the honour of English literature, or of those men in England, who feel an interest in the prosperity of the state,-and, consequently, an interest in seeing the young so educated, that they may worthily fill its places of honour and trust,—to admit, by the general introduction of foreign compilations into their schools, that there is no man in England able to make a good school-book, and, at the same time, willing to submit to the labour of making one?
This country has political institutions of its own ;-institutions which the men of each successive generation must uphold. But this they cannot do, unless they are early maile to understand and value them. It has a history of its own, of which it need not be ashamed ;-fathers, and heroes, and sages, of its own whose deeds and praises are worthy of being "said or
sung" by even the "mighty masters of the lay,"--and with whose deeds and praises, by being made familiar in our childhood, we shall be not the less qualified to act well our part, as citizens of a republic. Our country, both physically and morally, has a character of its own. Should not something of that character te learned by its children while at school? Its mountains, and prairies, and lakes, and rivers, and cataracts,-its shores and hill-tops, that were early made sacred by the dangers, and sacrifices, and deaths, of the devout and the daring—it does seem as if these were worthy of being held up, as objects of interest, to the young eyes that, from year to year, are opening upon them, and worthy of being linked, with all their sacred associations, to the young affections, which, sooner or later, must be bound to them, or they must cease to be—what they now are—the inheritance and abode of a free people.
It has been my object to make this book-what it is called--a National Reader. By this I do not mean that it consists, entirely, of American productions, or that the subjects of the different lessons are exclusively American. I do not understand that a national spirit is an exclusive spirit. The language of pure moral sentiment, the out-pourings of a poetical spirit, the lessons of genuine patriotism, and of a sublime and catholic religion,--let them have proceeded from what source they may,—not a few pieces, especially, which have long held a place in English compilations, I have adopted freely into this collection, and believe that I have enriched it by them. I trust that there will be found in it not a line or a thought, that shall offend the most scrupulous delicacy, or that shal) give any parent occasion to tremble for the morals of either a son or a daughter; and I hope that a regard for my own interest, if no higher consideration, may have prevented my being unmindful of that section of the late law of this commonwealth, which provides, that no committee of a public school shall ever “direct any school-books to be purchased, or used in any of the schools under their superintendence, which are calculated to favour any particular religious sect or tenet.”
In regard to rules or directions for reading, the same considerations which prevented my tilling up any part of the “ American First Class-Book” with them, have induced me to introduce none of them into this collection of exercises. Three things only are required to make a good reader. He must read so that what he reads shall, in the first place, be heard; in the second, that it shall be understood; and, in the third, that it shall be felt. If a boy has voice, and intelligence, and taste enough to do all this, then, under the personal guidance and discipline of a teacher who can read well, he will learn to read well; but if he has not, he may study rules, and pore over the doctrine of cadences and inflections, till “chaos come again,”he will never be a good reader.
In the humble hope that this comp:lation may contribute something to the accomplishing of the young, in this country, in the art of reading and speaking well, --something to the improvement of their taste, the cultivation of their moral sense and religious affections, and, thus, something to their preparation for an honourable discharge of their duties in this life, and for “glory, honour, and immortality,'' in the life that is to come, -I submit it to the disposal of the public, and ask for it only the favour of which it niay be thought worthy. Boston, June 1827.
TABLE OF CONTENTS.
LESSONS IN PROSE.
The names of American authors are in small capitals.
33. Obidah.-ihe Journey of a Day'.
C. Edwards, 72
38. The Little Man in Black .
W. IRVING. 75
93. The same, concluded .
40. Danger of being a good Singer London Literary Chronicle. 82
45. The Voice of the Seasons
46. Anecdote of Richard Jackson
London Quarterly Review. 91
47. Description of Niagara Falls .
49. Cataract of Terni .
50. A West-Indian Landscape.
51. Devotional Influences of Natural Scenery. Blackwool's Ed. Mag. 102
52. Passage of the Shenandoah through the Blue Ridge . JEFFERSON. 105
58. The Funeral of Maria
59. A Leaf from “The Life of a Looking-Glass": Miss J. Taylor. 113
64. Industry necessary to Genius .
V. Knor. 121
65. Story of Matilda .
67. Early Recollections
New Monthly Magazine. 126
72. Cruelty to Animals reproved
73. Excessive Severity in Punishments censured
77. Religion the Basis of Society .
78. Punishment of a Liar
LESSONS IN POETRY.
8. Paraphrase of the Nineteenth Psalm
32. "He shall fly away as a Dream”